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SpecialReport

Pegasos - Another Power PC Platform Debuts

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

By Applelinks Contributing Editor Charles W. Moore

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a Special Report about the CoreCrib Mac clone kit, which allows you to build up an inexpensive (relatively) Mac OS desktop system from mix and match parts.

There is also another new non-Apple Power PC computer on the market. It’s not a Mac OS box, but it is possible to run OS X on it after a fashion.

The PPC based Pegasos Platform offers users the freedom to chose among several OS options and an opportunity to join a growing worldwide community of “alternative operating system users.”

Powered by the IBM/Motorola PowerPC processors, Genesi’s Pegasos ships with both the slim MorphOS and Linux operating systems, providing users with a choice to fit their specific needs. Combining performance, small size, low noise and minimal power consumption, the Pegasos is adaptable to a varieyt of tasks from embedded kiosks to corporate workstations, full desktop computers and network servers. Further revisions will bring enhanced capabilities such as gigabit Ethernet and a crossbar architecture as well as new software being made available including Business-to-Business (B2B) tools and security management solutions. The Pegasos architecture is also expanding to new fields, with new products already in the middle to late development cycle for such things as digital TV decoding, set top boxes and portable solutions. Rewiewers report that the Pegasos system is “completely silent.”

The Pegasos is currently shipping with an IBM built PowerPC 750CXe Processor -- the same chip Apple uses in the current iBooks and also avalable in PowerBook upgrade products from PowerLogix. This is the 3rd generation (G3) of this highly successful processor line co-developed by IBM and Motorola. It brings many top end industrial features to the Pegasos, such as:
• Low power consumption.
• Minimal heat production.
• Harvard Architecture with integrated L1’s and L2 caches.
• Seperate cores to handle Fetch/Branch, Load/Store and Dispatch.

The Pegasos mounts its processor on an expansion card, similar to those found on older desktop Macs. The advantage of this is easier scalability, you don’t need a new motherboard to go with two or more processors. Only the northbridge is the limiting factor. In addition, as newer RAM and bridge technologies arrive, it is possible to create new boards and cards to take advantage of these processors without throwing-out your existing equipment. For good example, the next-generation Pegasos II will use the same processor cards as the already shipping Pegasos. This reduces the production cost which in turn benefits the whole Pegasos platform. With the rapidly changing scope of technology in the world today, the ability to retain your hardware investment in for a longer period is a key advantage of the Pegasos.

As another example, coming soon will be processor cards featuring the 4th generation PowerPC (G4) from Motorola. The G4, as Macheads know is a deceptively powerful processor family for it’s clock speed, with its AltiVec vector engine. Altivec provides the G4 family of processors with a key advantage in math-intensive operations such as 3D graphics, scientific simulations, and internet routers, providing a similar level of power as more dedicated Digital Signal Processors (DSP’s). By combining this with the processor itself, Motorola (and soon IBM) are providing this performance while being easier to program than the common DSP.

In the future, it is likely that new Power PC processors from both IBM and Motorola will also find their way on to the Pegasos and Pegasos II. With this processor-card design, and the Pegasos’ modular nature, your investment today will not be lost with the next technological turn of the corner.

With its modular motherboard design, the Pegasos Platform can be easily upgraded to fit your needs and demands. Using today’s standard interfaces, you are able to use common components found on store shelves of your local computer shop. To simplify system assembly, the Pegasos uses commodity components such as ATA hard drives, PC133 RAM, CD-RW drives, digital cameras and TV tuner cards.

Some of the features of the first generation Pegasos motherboard:
• MicroATX mainboard (236 mm x 172 mm), compatible with all ATX-compliant cases.
• Open Firmware.
• 100 MHz processor slot.
• 600 MHz PowerPC G3 750 CXe, scaling up to a PowerPC G4 MPC 7450.
• PC133 RAM(two sockets), upto 2 GB.
• AGP slot.
• PCI subsystem with three slots, optional Riser Card.
• IEEE1394/Firewire with 100/200/400 MBit data transfer using a VIA VT6306.
• 10/100 MBit Realtek Phyceiver 8201 Ethernet.
• USB I/O system VIA 8231 with two external and one internal connectors.
• SPDIF digital audio connector.
• AC97 sound subsystem Sigmatel STAC 9766 Codec with mic input, line in/out and headset connector.
• IRDA for infra-red remote control.
• ATA100 VIA 8231 with two channels for upto four ATA devices.
• PS/2 mouse and keyboard connectors
• RS232 (serial) port
• Centronics (parallel) port.
• Gameport for PC-compatible joysticks.
• Floppy drive connector.
• Two operating systems included: MorphOS, Debian GNU/Linux with Mac-on-Linux.

The Pegasos is built using chipsets from such companies as VIA, Mai, Marvell and Sigmatel.

Mai provides the northbridge for the original Pegasos, providing it with an advanced PCI, AGP and memory bus. It includes such features as dual PCI bus, AGP support on PCI bus 1, a Multi-Function Memory Controller and a floating buffer to cache and arbitrate the various elements of the system.

For the Pegasos II, Genesi has chosen the Discovery II from industry leader Marvell. Unlike Mai’s floating-buffer technique for bus control, Marvell uses an advanced crossbar architecture, similar to that found in advanced network routers. In addition, it provides: ECC memory support, a general purpose high speed I/O for onboard logic, gigabit ethernet fully capable of supplying the peak speed for this technology, and up to 8-gigabytes of address space. The internal crossbar fabric supplies up to 100 Gigabits/second, delivering unprecedented performance for the Pegasos II.

The Pegasos’ audio codec is the STAC 9766 from Sigmatel which supplies 18/20-bit audio performance over two standard audio channels. It includes multiple input channels at 18-bit to allow for mixing down a microphone, CD-audio and even DVD support. To help future-proof the Pegasos, a digital SPDIF output has been included, allowing the Pegasos access to the next generation of audio technology.

VIA supplies many components for the Pegasos including the 8231 southbridge and 6306 controller. The 8231 supplies such things as the serial, parallell, IDE and USB ports for the machine. The 6306 is a high performance IEEE1394 controller providing 3 IEEE-1394 ports for the Pegasos to use.

Pegasos Supported Operating Systems

MorphOS

The MorphOS is a lightweight Operating System built for the PowerPC CPU inside the Pegasos. MorphOS is built for the user, it is simple to use so you don’t need hours of training or need to remember complex commands, it features super fast responsiveness so you don’t have to wait and is fully configurable and skinnable allowing you to change it to look and feel any way you want. Reportedly, the MorphOS’ biggest advantage is that it can run thousands of AmigaOS software via its emulation “A-BOX” kit, which enables MorphOS to run classic Amiga programs.

MorphOS has an active user and developer community with new software in development. It also includes a fast JIT based 680x0 emulator so you can run many of the titles from the classic Commodore Ax00 and Ax000 series of computers.

Linux

Debian GNU/Linux is a non-commercial Linux distribution ideal for more advanced users. It focuses on system stability rather than having the latest greatest features and their accompanying problems. Being Linux you can expect all the security, stability and power you’d expect of a Linux system.

Adding and updating software packages is easy with the built in APT program which allows you access to nearly 9000 configured and tested packages, these are pre-compiled and are carefully set up to avoid clashes and dependancy problems.

Mac on Linux

Of particular interest to Mac fans is that you can run the MacOS or MacOSX on a Pegasos via Mac-On-Linux Apple hardware or an Apple BIOS. However, MacOSX performance on a 600 Mhz G3 under emulation is going to be more a curiousity than useful. The G4 based Pegasos II may make OS X a more practical proposition. Mac OS 9 reportedly runs quite well in Mac-On-Linux under Debian Linux.

Genesi is working on making sure that Mandrake, SuSE, Gentoo and Yellow Dog Linux work in this platform, and the following operating systems are currently being ported to the Pegasos Platform:
• AROS
• FreeBSD
• NewOS
• OpenBeOS
• OpenBSD

With its low-overhead processor, standard OpenFirmware BIOS and built-in Hardware Abstraction Layer, the Pegasos is the ideal platform for alternative OS development. Offering special pricing and incentive plans, along with developer support thanks to their partnership with the Phoenix Developers Consortium, Genesi is the friend to the alternative OS developer.

Software Bundles

There are two software bundles available to Pegasos owners, the internal and external software bundles. The internal software bundle consists of software that has been integrated into the operating system, and is available through our FTP server or on CD. Internal bundle upgrades are provided free with any upgrade of the OS. The external software bundle is a collection of software that has not been integrated into the OS, and may be part of a promotional, time limited, offer. The external software bundle is subject to change, and any version of the external software bundle may be purchased at a special price by current Pegasos owners.

Internal - Bundled as part of MorphOS itself

The internal software bundle includes titles that have been either integrated into MorphOS, and may be “invisible” to those unfamiliar with MorphOS.

MUI 3.9 PPC
MorphOS owes its distinctive user inteface to MUI, the Magic User Interface system. Though originally a shareware title, the complete MUI system has been built into MorphOS creating one of the most flexible and powerful user interfaces on any platform.

AmiTCP
A powerful TCP/IP stack, AmiTCP has been upgraded, fitted with a new user-interface, and will be included in MorphOS. AmiTCP is where your MorphNet starts.

VoyagerPPC
Fully registered, VoyagerPPC is a fast and configurable web-browser, with built in SSL and Flash.

BirdieShoot
The highly addictive game published by E.P.I.C. Interactive. The object of the game is simply to shoot down birds.

External - Available extras

The external software bundle includes titles that Genesi includes with a Pegasos purchase. This list is subject to change, and may not represent any one time only offers. The external bundle is always available to Pegasos owners for a special price, so if you already own a Pegasos - check back often!

ProStation Audio Titanium
Professional audio mixing, arranging, sampling and more. If you can’t do it with ProStation Audio Titanium, then it’s not sound.

MorphED
A new and powerful text editor designed just for MorphOS, based on an older product called GoldED. MorphED will be shipped as part of the upcoming MorphOS Software Development Kit.

The basic Pegasos sells for around $450-$500.

While it still may be available from dealers, the current Pegasos I motherboard is sold out at this writing.

Work is in progress on a second generation Pegasos board, dubbed the Pegasos II, due for launch September 2003. At that time PowerPC G4 processor cards will also be introduced as upgrades for both the original Pegasos, and the forthcoming Pegasos II. In addition, a new software bundle is being developed for the MorphOS.

In practical terms, right now the Pegasos computer will be mainly of interest to hardcore geeks and holdover Amiga aficionados. In the future, as it becomes more powerful and user-friendly, it may present an inexpensive alternative route to running OS X in emulation. However, another computer platform based on the Power PC chip is good news for Mac enthusiasts, as it will help strengthen and sustain the Power PC as a CPU alternative to the X86 juggernaut.

For more information on Pegasos, visit:
http://64.246.37.205/

Other links that may be of interest:
http://www.osnews.com/story.php?news_id=3589
http://www.morphzone.org
http://www.morphos-news.de
http://mdc.morphos.net


Charles W. Moore

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